Coach Girardi was a native of Kensington, PA and received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Southwestern State University, Weatherford (OK). Before coming to Baker in 1976 he had an outstanding record as a head coach in high schools, first at Winona (KS) and after that, for 4 years at Leoti (KS). His 1970 team at Leoti won the school’s first conference championship in 27 years. He later moved on to Blue Ridge High School of Lakeside (AZ) where his eight year combined record was 72-18-1. This included 5 conference championships, 1 inter-division championship, 1 state championship and two state runner-ups finishes. In being hired at Baker, Coach Girardi was quoted, “I hope to provide the same excellence in the football program that Baker has established and maintains in its academic programs”…and that is exactly what he did!
Taking a team that had but six wins spread over the previous six years, he started slowly climbing the ranks in the tough Heart of America Conference. That first fall he had a record 127 players report for practice. Though his first year record of 2-7-1 was personally disappointing, success was on the horizon. The dedication, concentration and discipline he demanded in practice and games indeed began to pay off at Homecoming that year as the ‘Cats tied the Missouri Valley Vikings who entered the game ranked #3 in the NAIA.
In 1977, Baker finished 8-2 with their first ever national NAIA ranking at #13 and for the first time since 1970, having scored more points in a season than did its opponents (369-149). The 1978 edition of the team went 7-2 in the regular season and earned its first ever post-season game in the Boot Hill Bowl. Though the ‘Cats lost the game to a tough Chadron State (Nebraska) team, the team earned a total of 9 all-conference selections, and one player who was designated both All-District and All-American. The 1979 season began with a national ranking at #19 and ended with a record of 7-3 and a 5-1 record in the Heart of America Conference. Coach Girardi’s four-year record at Baker was 25-15-1 with a winning percentage of .622. Though the Wildcats easily defeated the William Jewell Cardinals that fall who at that time were ranked #2 in the Nation, Jewell was selected ahead of Baker for inclusion in the post-season Moila Shrine Bowl Game.
Following the 1979 season, Coach Girardi decided to return to the high school ranks at Show Low H.S. in Show Low (AZ). He was killed in a tragic car accident near there on December 7, 1982. At the time of his death his total head coaching record at all levels and at all schools in football was 105-50-3.
Coach Girardi’s importance to Baker football should never be understated. His leadership, dedication and coaching success no doubt set the framework and a winning tradition for the years and decades of football achievement and dominance that Baker has enjoyed in the conference and the NAIA.